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Pittsburgh Penguins

Re-examining the Marian Hossa trade

On February 26 of this year, the Penguins acquired Marian Hossa from the Atlanta Thrashers for Erik Christensen, Colby Armstrong, Angelo Esposito and a 1st round draft pick. At the time of the trade, analysts and fans were both staunchly for the trade and staunchly opposed to it.

Now, I am here to analyze whether I believe the trade was worthwhile. To be fair, on February 26th I believed that the Penguins gave up far too much for a playoff rental. With that established, I will begin my analysis.

What the Penguins gave up:

The Penguins did not just give up four young assets, but they gave up four cheap assets. In today’s game, the cost of a player’s salary is far more important than it has been in the past.

  1. Colby Armstrong: The young winger has one more year remaining on his contract at $1.2 million dollars, after which he is a restricted free agent (The team carries the right to match any offer the player receives after July 1 of that year). In terms of skills, the Saskatchewan native had 35 points this past season, is a very good skater and is a physical force.
  2. Erik Christensen: The 23 year old center has one more year remaining on his contract at $750,000, after which he is a restricted free agent. In terms of skills, the Edmonton native has golden hands, and has proven to be a scorer at all levels.
  3. Angelo Esposito: Finished last season with the Quebec Ramparts of the QMJHL. Has yet to play a NHL game and when he does, he will do so on a three-year entry contract. The much-heralded Quebec native has been over-analyzed for years, however, he still has immense skill and will get a chance to prove his worth in the state of Georgia.
  4. 1st round draft pick: Will be at the end of the first round, and when signed will be on an entry-level contract.

So there we have it. The Thrashers acquired four cheap assets who carry with them a fair amount of offensive skill. But we cannot overlook how important inexpensive players are in this context because the Penguins are going to have a lot of difficulty signing Marian Hossa or some of their other superstar players without significantly cutting into the money they can afford to pay their supporting cast.

What the Penguins received:

The Penguins received the type of production from Marian Hossa that they expected. The big Slovakian winger produced 10 points in 12 regular season games but proved his worth during the playoffs with a 26 point performance in just 20 games. Hossa was arguably the Penguins’ second best player during their entire run to the Stanley Cup finals. In reality, the Pens could not have asked for much more from the talented winger.

Would the Penguins have made the Finals without Hossa?

This is obviously complete guess-work, but in my opinion the Penguins would have made the Finals even without Marian Hossa.

To explain, let’s conduct a quick round-by-round examination:

  1. Ottawa Senators: Let’s put it this way, my grandmother and her friends could have beaten the Senators. Ottawa mailed in the season way before the playoffs began. If anyone wants to argue that, I will personally force them to watch that series over again.
  2. New York Rangers: In my opinion, the Rangers were the Penguins’ most difficult opponent on the way to the finals. Even so, after the Penguins’ awful start to Game 1 of the series (which saw them trailing 3-0) they went on to dominate the subsequent three games. The Rangers were outscored 12-4 in the series from that point until the start of Game 4. Would the Penguins have defeated the Rangers without Hossa? Well, the series was only five games long and was never in doubt from the Pens perspective.
  3. Philadelphia Flyers: When the Flyers reached the third round, they looked worn down. That was evident in their play. Furthermore, the team did not have the defense to handle the Penguins speed and offensive creativity. Without Hossa, the series may have gone on longer, but the Penguins would not have lost to their in-state rivals.

If the Penguins had won the Cup, would the trade have been worth it?

In a word–yes. Winning changes everything. Besides, who ever remembers the team that loses the championship?

The Penguins left the finals without a championship; instead, they now face a far more difficult summer than they would have before.

For Illegal Curve, I’m Richard Pollock.

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